The eagle is the most honored bird in many world cultures. All of these countries have the eagle as their national symbol or in their important coat of arms: Albania, Austria, The Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Ghana, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Navarre/Basque Country Kingdom, Nigeria, the Palestinian Authority, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Syria, Yemen, Zambia.
The Great Seal of the United States and the coat of arms
The Eagle is viewed symbolically as a kingly bird, to the extent that it is compared to God protecting His people:
“As an eagle stirs up its nest, flutters over its young, spreads out its wings, takes them, bears them on its pinions”
This Biblical powerful metaphor inspired the adaptation of the bald eagle as the US national emblem in June 20, 1782.
Eagle vs. Vulture
There is some historical confusion between the eagle (Ne-sher) and the vulture (A-yit) in regard to their Hebrew names. To this day, this confusion has not been resolved, and you’ll find conflicting definitions in all world dictionaries. The main difference between the two birds, besides ornithological comparisons, is that the Eagle is a predator, whereas the vulture is a scavenger, feeding chiefly on carrion and reputed to gather with others in anticipation of the death of a sick or injured animal or person. Although they may look similar, there is a major difference between the two that is well noticed in Biblical Hebrew. The mere name comes from the root “na-shar,” which means to fall out, to be bald. This leaves no doubt about America’s choice of its emblem − very biblical, reflecting the godliness of the forefathers of this great nation. The eagle carries the character of a mighty warrior, and at the same time, it is the protecting fatherly manifestation of God. Indeed, the last two letters of the Hebrew word “ne-sher” mean a price, a mighty warrior.
The idea of the eagle extending its wings to shelter its eaglets went beyond this mere image and connected to the idea of the tabernacle under which one finds God’s protection. It was further extended to the micro level with each person wrapping himself with a Tallit (the Jewish Prayer shawl, creating the same metaphor of “protection”: eagle-God-tabernacle-tallit. You may add to this the laying of hands upon someone’s head while praying for him/her.
Have you ever noticed the connection between these metaphors and the image of your own rabbi or pastor, standing on the podium, high enough above your head, extending his hands up and sideways, just like the eagle extending its wings, and casting down his blessing upon your head, the human image of the shielded eaglet.
Whether all spiritual leaders are aware of this connection or not, they all follow this pattern knowingly or instinctively!